E.A. Sports Today

Seeing the future

Piedmont senior Alex Odam takes the same floor in the Calhoun County Tournament where the next four years of his sporting life lies

Alex Odam (1) sits on the Piedmont bench in the Calhoun County Tournament inside Jax State’s Pete Mathews Coliseum and cranes his neck to see the action on the other end of the floor.

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Leah Odam could see son Alex’s future, watching a big-screen video montage highlighting Jacksonville State players prior to Saturday’s game against visiting Jacksonville University.

With Alex, a Jax State signee, seated nearby, she turned to husband and Piedmont High School boys’ basketball coach JoJo Odam.

“They show each player, and I was just like, ‘It’s crazy, because Alex is going to be up there next year,’” she said.

Alex was on Bill Jones Court, in Pete Mathews Coliseum on Monday, pouring in 24 points as fifth-seeded Piedmont downed No. 13 Pleasant Valley 73-50 in the Calhoun County Tournament.

Odam and the rest of the Bulldogs hope to extend their stay in the county tourney in Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m. quarterfinal against No. 4 Anniston. A victory would push them past the county quarterfinals for the first time since 2010.

For Alex Odam, victory is job No. 1, but venue takes on new meaning. The senior who committed to Jax State on May 13 of last year and signed on Nov. 10 now knows he will play his college home games on the same court.

Beyond the county tournament, he’ll get at least one more chance to play in The Pete as a high schooler. His dad added a Feb. 1 game against Fort Payne there, and that game could come with another career milestone for Piedmont’s all-time leading scorer.

He entered Monday’s game needing 145 points to become the 14th player according to AHSAA records to reach 3,000. His season 23.4-point average means he would need 6.2 games to reach the milestone. He passed former Ranburne player and MLB pitcher Chase Whitley for 17th on the list Monday night.

The Pleasant Valley game was the first. The Bulldogs will play at least one more county game and could play two more.

Beyond the tournament, they play Saks on Jan. 24, Sand Rock on Jan. 26 and White Plains on Jan. 27. Fort Payne in The Pete would be the seventh game.

“That would be special,” Alex said. “I might have to figure it out where I can do that.”

Piedmont has also made 11 Northeast Regional appearances, including each of the past seven years. History suggests Alex Odam will get that last chance to play on his soon-to-be home court as a high schooler.

“I love it. It feels like home there,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve played a lot of games there,  but until now, I didn’t really know that’s where I was going to play.”

For now, it’s all about maximizing the Bulldogs’ stay in the county tournament.

“I think this is the year, too,” he said. “I think we can make a run at it.”

Alex Odam is finishing off a decorated high school career. He’s a four-time Alabama Sports Writers Association all-state player and a three-time, first-team selection.

His numbers this season suggest a fifth all-state selection. There’s the usual scoring, though Ishmael Bethel, Rollie Pinto and Cole Wilson have helped. But he also averaged 10.5 rebounds and  7.35 assists headed into Monday’s game.

“He’s picked up his rebounding, which he needed to after we lost Omar (Foster) and Cass (Fairs),” JoJo Odam said. “He’s trying to get everyone involved. I think his assists are up, because he knows we’ve got to get everybody involved.”

That’s what Jax State coach Ray Harper most wants to see … progression in the skills Alex will use as Gamecock point guard.

Point-guard work was a focus of Alex’ offseason work, which included playing with Jacksonville’s John Broom and twins Caden and Cam Johnson on the Alabama Fusion team.

“It was a lot of ball handling, reading defenses and just becoming a true point guard and being a leader and talking and running the offense,” he said. “That’s what I worked on and what I’m looking forward to doing.”

That’s Alex Odam of the future. Alex Odam of the present wants to help Piedmont get as far as possible. His preferred venue is Birmingham’s Legacy Arena, site of the Final 48.

The Bulldogs last played there in 2015, finishing as Class 3A runner-up.

Still, it’s fun for him to play – and his parents to see him play – on his home court of the future. Maybe he can paint another masterpiece, like his 32-point output in a one-on-one clash with former Anniston standout Antonio Kite in last year’s county quarterfinals. Kite scored 21, and Anniston won 74-68.

Pleasant Valley coach Brad Hood, speaking after his team beat Ohatchee on Friday to set up Monday’s county matchup with Piedmont, knew what was coming. 

“That kid, we couldn’t stop him when he was an eighth-grader,” Hood said. “What are we going to do when he’s a senior? We’ve got to take care of us. He’s going to score his 20, 30 maybe 40. We’ve got to guard everybody else.

“He’s going to be fired up. This is going to be his home court soon. He’s not going to feel sorry for us. He’s going to want to come out here and show what he’s got.”

On Saturday, the Odams watched another Calhoun County great, Sacred Heart product Kevion Nolan, play his final game in The Pete. Now a senior for Jacksonville University, Nolan scored 23 points, 20 in the second half, to lead the Dolphins past Jax State 68-62.

“He was killing it,” Alex said. “Every time he comes back there and plays there, he has a good one. I remember last year watching him go off there.

“Obviously, I was rooting against him, but it was still fun to watch him.”

Mom and dad sat a few rows away, picturing the future.

“It’s just exciting for us to think that, he’s worked so hard, and it’s going to happen for him,” Leah Odam said. 

The two dynamic players in Calhoun County that year, Piedmont’s Alex Odam (L) and Anniston’s Antonio Kite, go head-to-head one year ago to the day Tuesday in last year’s County Tournament.

Climbing the list

Here is the AHSAA’s listing of all-time leading scorers in the state and where Piedmont’s Alex Odam falls in it. (Games through Jan. 15)

1. Tommy MurrLindsay Lane5,7162014-20
2. Jeremy MonceauxParkway Christian4,555-x1998-02
3. Frankie SullivanR.C. Hatch4,2242003-08
15. Richard HendrixAthens2,9152001-05
16. Bart HycheWinfield2,8841990-94
17. Alex OdamPiedmont2,8792017-
x-Monceaux scored 1,799 in Louisiana (1996-98), giving him 6,354 all-time. Source: AHSAA

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